Europeana’s Digital Storytelling Festival (05_2023)

Review of Europeana’s Digital Storytelling Festival 2023

By Celeste Pedro

May 2023 – Europeana is a European Union initiative resulting from the collaboration between three organisations devoted to creating, managing, and providing access to Europe’s digital cultural heritage. The Digital Storytelling Festival is held in partnership with The Heritage Lab and had its first edition back in 2021.

This year’s festival happened on the 9th and 10th of May. It consisted of one Keynote with Waqas Ahmed from the Khalili Foundation, three workshops and five discussion panels, with over twenty intervenient presenters. Topics ranged from traditional to AI-assisted storytelling and covered different media approaches to heritage, like video, multisensorial devices, or music. It was also a perfect way to present and promote citizen participation in building Europeana’s content.

The first workshop laid out the story behind a video created by the European Fashion Heritage Association about Kilims tapestry for the video series Crafting Heritage: “Craft as political art: public and personal histories woven in a kilim”. It ended with a reflection on video storytelling, from ideation to planning, to production. After the presentations, participants were asked to reflect on how to adapt what they had learnt to their own topics, using mentimeter. Questions were focused on preparing interviews and choosing additional materials to illustrate what was being said by the interviewees.

Two talks followed related to mental health and well-being: a very impressive photovoice project by Tijs Van Steenberghe, aiming to reflect on “how recovery is being shaped through the lens of recovery capital and gender”; and the Outreach Lab of the Huis van Alijn that presented examples of the methodologies they adopted and the programs that are available at the museum revealing how they integrate real objects with the online collections.

The last talk of the day combined art and music with Black History, using the examples of an exhibition on Gospel music at the Museum Catharijneconvent in the Netherlands and the project “Bringing History to Life” with artist Lela Harris focused on the Black Lancastrians of the 18th century.

The following day, the festival started with a creative writing workshop with the amazing Beth Daley, which allowed participants to engage quite rapidly in free writing and the advantages of such a storytelling method. The next two talks were on impacting different senses to communicate historical and cultural perspectives around museum collections. 

The first was Odeuropa, an ongoing research project on olfactory data that includes an “Online Encyclopaedia of Smell Heritage” as an outcome. The second project was developed for the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and used sound to create stories in museums for people with disabilities.

There was also room to present the first Europeana online residency program.

This presentation concentrated on Europeana’s LGBTQ+ stories, with some examples: the Cork LGBT Archive and their work with the community and the IHLIA LGBTIQ Heritage collection.

Then there was a workshop with practical information on contributing to Europeana stories regarding copyright and guidelines and partners’ (also us!) curation on creating exhibitions, galleries, and blog content. Here is a very complete intro.

The festival ended with three talks on AI: virtual spaces, music, and image. Presenters allowed participants to travel around speculative realities, use the collective creation tool WAIVE Studio, and understand the potential of fictional characters to tell stories.

Overall, it was a vibrant event with excellent organisation and full of novelty. Participants showed involvement and interest throughout the event, and presenters were irreprehensible handling the online live participation of all involved. Europeana’s standards for building collective knowledge are high, and their effort is commendable. Here is a list of useful links; enjoy!

All presentations are available here.

Finally, you can have access to handy resources on digital storytelling here.